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19 February 2015

Because all are made equal

Because all are made equal

Scottish parliament, via Creative Commons

The issue of assisted suicide has been lurking in the background of Holyrood politics for a number of years now – in December 2010, the Scottish parliament rejected the End of Life Assistance Bill by 85 votes to 16. In this parliament, Margo MacDonald MSP introduced the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, which Patrick Harvie MSP is now taking forward. This week, the Health Committee heard the final arguments on the bill before it the committee reports back to the parliament and MSPs vote on the issue, which is likely to be in April.

In his opening remarks to the committee, Patrick Harvie said that the bill does not imply or suggest "that some people's lives are less valuable than others", saying, "this bill takes as its first principle, at a philosophical level that because all of our lives matter, because all of our lives are valued, we have the right to make major decisions ourselves."

However, whilst saying that the bill does not imply some lives are less valuable than others, it does say that only some people would be eligible to end their lives with help from others;anyone wishing to do so would need to be terminally ill or to be suffering from a progressive illness which makes life intolerable. Apparently it is not the case that all lives are of equal value.

We believe this legislation to be unethical and uncontrollable and at the Evangelical Alliance we are opposed to it precisely because we believe all human lives are made equally, have equal value and an inherent dignity and that suggestions that some lives are not worth living send out all the wrong signals to some of Scotland's most vulnerable people in their final days. Indeed our latest research Faith in politics? has found that a pro-life stance on euthanasia is among the top five issues evangelicals say will affect their vote in May 2015.

We also have practical concerns about legalising assisted suicide, chiefly the impact it may have on those who are vulnerable and may feel themselves to be a burden, and who may be persuaded into agreeing to end their life. This was well put by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who stated in the 2010 debate: "I personally find myself particularly concerned and fundamentally concerned about the difficulty I think would always and inevitably be present in determining that someone choosing to end their life had not been subjected to undue influence."

The Scottish government does not support this bill and MSPs will be given a free, conscience vote across the parties of the Scottish parliament. It is therefore one of the votes where MSPs can genuinely make up their mind on the issue and one where being contacted by constituents can make a real difference to an MSP's thinking. We hope it will be defeated in the same manner as the 2010 bill however we are asking for our supporters to do three things to help this happen.

Firstly, please pray that when this bill comes before the Scottish parliament later this spring, that it is defeated. Pray for your MSPs, that they would see the implications of this bill and positive choose life. Please also pray for a change in how people think about life issues in Scotland, that we would be a nation known for promoting the value and dignity of life and choosing the common good over an individualistic understanding of autonomy. 

Secondly, please take the time to contact your MSPs about this issue and register your concerns. Every person in Scotland is represented by one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs and you can find them by using the postcode finder on the Scottish Parliament homepage

Thirdly, please sign the Care Not Killing petition online. Thousands have already signed this, both online and in paper form, and by doing this your voice can be added to the debate in parliament in what will be an unpredictable and potentially close vote.

As today's Faith in Politics? survey has shown, evangelical Christians are perhaps now the most politically engaged group in UK politics. Over the next two months we are asking Christians to Show Up as we engage with this challenging but vital topic.